Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Marketing Vs. Advance

Saturday’s edition of The Wall Street Journal ran an interesting article on numerous general market novelists who are opting to sign with a smaller publisher for little to no advance dollars. The pull? Extra attention given to marketing their books. These novelists are also given “higher than normal” royalty payments, so with the right amount of sales, they can end up earning as much or even more.

Among these writers are suspense novelist David Morrell, women’s fiction writer Eileen Goudge, and science fiction novelist Greg Bear.

Morrell estimated that his 28 books have sold 20 million copies worldwide. Still, according to the article, Morrell left his longtime publisher, Warner Books, “after concluding that he needed to jump-start his career.” Publishing now with Vanguard Press, a small company owned by Perseus Books Group, Morrell says he’s involved with every step of the marketing of his novel. Morrell turned down a six-figure advance from Warner Books to go with Vanguard for no advance.

Vanguard says it focuses on marketing a book three months before its release, and three months after. This gives a six-month push—much longer than the typical lead-up followed by a few weeks after a book hits shelves. Another small press, Melville House, is following the same model as far as advances—offering little to no money in order that more can be spent on the marketing.

This kind of thinking is exactly opposite of the norm. Typically, the view is—the higher the advance, the more money the house has riding on the book, and therefore the bigger the marketing budget will be. If the house pays nothing for the book, they have little to lose if it doesn’t sell well.

But this new tactic seems to be working for Morrell. He published Creepers with CDS, now called Vanguard, in September 2005, and was pleased enough with the results that he’s gone back to the house for his next one. Scavenger will release March 12, 2007.

Interesting, though. The article says Creepers sold 62,000 copies in hardcover. Doesn’t sound like that many copies to me—not when you’re talking a total 20 million copies of 28 books. But Morrell and his agent are pleased with the whole package—which includes selling of movie rights, audio, book club, and foreign rights to 17 overseas publishers. Plus the paperback edition, which hits stores soon with an estimated printing of 225,000 copies.

The article also notes other well-known authors who’ve chosen the smaller press route, including Stephen King. Hard Case Crime books published The Colorado Kid for an advance of under $5,000. And Kurt Vonnegut published his most recent book, A Man Without a Country, with Seven Stories Press, whose typical advances range from $1000 to $10,000.

In the end--marketing rules.


Grady Houger said...

But would you do it Brandilyn?

Is this technique effective enough that we might see larger publishers offer it as an option to their authors (so they won't jump ship)?

Gina Holmes said...

Sounds interesting and risky. Thanks for the great info.

Anonymous said...

Risky moves, but if they are happy, that's what counts.
Would you go with a smaller house?

Merry Christmas!

Anonymous said...

Fascinating article and post. It's interesting to watch an established industry like publishing push for new ways to act. And it says a lot to me that some of the "big" names are making the leap.

Stuart said...

Question is, would it be as effective for a no-name as it is for a big name?

Could it be more effective?

It does seem less risky up front for a publisher to try this route... but only if the budget for the marketing is less or equal to what the advance would have been. How far would say $10,000 dollars used by a publisher towards marketing a specific book go? Especially if there was no name recognition to go with it?

Just thoughts, very interesting trend though.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting look into your world of publishing. You are teaching me so much of a world that I had no idea about.

~ Brandilyn Collins said...

No, I wouldn't switch houses to do this. Zondervan has spoiled me. I'm already highly involved in my books' marketing.

Perhaps I shall revisit the subject when I need to "jump-start" my career after selling 20 million books.

As for $10,000, Stuart--wouldn't buy you much. Front table at a B&N for a few weeks, that's it. I mean, that's great, but to forego a six-figure advance, it ain't much. These authors would have gotten that in a normal deal.

I don't think this kind of deal would be a good choice for a new author. This is working for Morell because he's known, and the smaller house will do anything to get and keep him. But a new author whose book doesn't sell--what has the house lost if they didn't pay any advance?

Anonymous said...

Brandilyn, I have experience in radio marketing but how does it work at the typical big name publisher? Is their marketing team all staffers or do they hire outside firms to help market certain books? I'm starting up my own promotions and marketing business and I have some FRESH ideas on how to market books to teens and twenty-somethings.

Anonymous said...


Do you have any advice on how authors can get more involved with their publishers and marketing?

Thanks for posting this. Very insightful.


Kristy Dykes said...

Great info, Brandilyn. Thanks for the post.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this stuff. Like Rachel, I too would be interested in hearing more advice on how authors can get more involved with their publishers and marketing. I can't do much yet, but I do at least want to think about it.
Tina f.

Anonymous said...

Thanks a bunch for this post. Something to think about.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

Very interesting concept! I think it is more profitable for established novelists who have name recognition.

I would like to read more about authors who have tried this!

Thanks Brandilyn, for the info. You keep your finger on the pulse of the market, and if we learn nothing else from you, we should learn to do that.

Merry Christmas!

~ Brandilyn Collins said...

Solshine, publishing houses do it both ways--use their inhouse people and at other times they farm out to a publicity firm.

Rachel and Tina, we will discuss marketing more in the new year. If you have specific questions (other than what you've already noted), please leave them here or email me.

Rachel Hauck said...


I'll just keep checking in on the blog. My question is broad: What can I do to help that doesn't cost me a lot of money or too much time. ;)

Merry Christmas!